Town Square Tap adjusts on the fly

Town Square Tap co-owner Zach Frazier mixes up a smoothie. Joe Schulz photo

by Joe Schulz

A lot can change in one year. 

After opening last summer, Town Square Tap co-owner Zach Frazier realized the taproom needed to adjust its business model to remain viable.

“We started out with the simple goal of opening a taproom to sell our ginger beer, a few local craft beers, and some wine,” Frazier said. “The ginger beer was well received but in order for the business to work, we had to pivot.”

The “pivot” began with small tweaks, adding products such as domestic beers, higher quality wine, seltzers and pizza.

However, as Town Square Tap worked to adjust its business model and develop relationships with local entrepreneurs, it was thrown a curveball in the form of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Still, after being shut down in March and reopening in May, Town Square Tap has rebounded, becoming a hub for locally sourced products of all kinds through a “culture of collaboration” with other small businesses.

“2020 has been an absolutely crazy year for everyone, and we are certainly not an exception to that rule, but we’ve been blessed,” Frazier said. “We survived [and] we’ve grown. … Community support from our customers, other local businesses and local organizations like the [Green Lake Area] Chamber of Commerce has overwhelmed us to tears.”

According to Frazier, the taproom’s baseline business has increased by 49.8%, despite a “non-existent” special event business and multiple event cancellations.

After navigating the first year operating Town Square Tap, Frazier is in talks with co-owner Zach Johnson to split Town Square Tap from Fox Tail Brewing Co. 

Fox Tale Brewing Co. —- the producer of Frazier’s Fox Tale Genuine Craft Ginger Beer — is owned by Genuine Beverages, while Town Square Concessions is the operator of Town Square Tap, Frazier explained.

He added that operating the taproom accounts for the majority of profits, which caused the duo’s focus to drift from brewing ginger beer.

“Zach Johnson and I are discussing how we can better manage that and we’re in discussions to see how we can attain those two goals moving forward with separate companies,” Frazier said.

If all goes as planned after the negotiations, Johnson would run the taproom and Frazier would run the brewing operation.

Celebrating an outdoor event are, from left, Steve Kutz, Zach Johnson and Zach Frazier. After one year of operating Town Square Tap, Frazier and Johnson are reworking their contract. If all goes as planned, Johnson would run the taproom and Frazier would run the brewing operation. submitted photo

Even so, Frazier attributed the taproom’s rebound to the partnerships forged with local suppliers.

“We believe business can be done in a different way,” Frazier said. “We believe that while there is competition, cooperation trumps competition every day of the week.”

Through cooperation, he believes everyone can bring their best to the table in the service of customers.

“We do a few things very well, but we let others do what they do very well,” Frazier said. “We brew ginger beer, we serve drinks and we put on great events. We really don’t go beyond that. We really want to draw on the specialized expertise of others to make sure that their talents are celebrated.”

Town Square Tap has collaborated with a variety of local breweries, including Vines & Rushes Winery and Knuth Brewing Co.

“Our local breweries and wineries are amazing,” Frazier said. “There is such a great culture of collaboration with small breweries and without it, we wouldn’t exist.”

To bring additional food options, Town Square Tap partnered with a host of other local providers to offer pizza, salads and snacks. 

One of the most significant partnerships has been with Bucket Wings, a carry-out chicken wing restaurant owned by 18-year-old Will Gerstein. Town Square Tap is the only place that serves Bucket Wings for dine-in service. 

“We’ve benefitted from their wings and they’ve benefitted from our bar; it really has been a great relationship,” Frazier said. “We are in talks right now to ensure that Bucket Wings continues and can be offered at the bar during all hours.”

In order to offer Bucket Wings full time, the taproom will need to negotiate with Town Square as well as Bucket Wings. 

In addition to a wider selection of food, Town Square Tap also offers live music on Saturdays from 6 to 9 p.m.  

“Our goal is to show the world that small local businesses acting together can achieve great things,” Frazier said. “The closure of the Heidel House hurt everyone, but we believe that we have the capabilities to host great events.

“Our vision is to work with Town Square, local restaurants and caterers, hotels, and wedding businesses to create a one-stop shop with a single point of contact for events, weddings, and conferences at Town Square. We are now just waiting on Town Square to agree to a modified contract to make that happen.”